Seventy-four years ago on April 6, 1945, a World War II ship named the SS Hobbs was sunk by a Japanese kamikaze attack near the island of Okinawa.
The ship was named for the town of Hobbs, and Hobbs resident Mrs. L. B. Pribble was chosen as the “Sponsor” of the ship, an honor that designated her the woman who launched the ship by breaking a bottle of champagne on its hull on the day of launch.
The Pribbles had two sons, Foy and Iris, serving in the Army at the time.
The SS Hobbs was a so-called “Victory Ship,” one of 531 cargo ships built quickly during the war to replace cargo ships being sunk by German submarines and Japanese fighter planes. The SS Hobbs was loaded with six thousand pounds of ammunition meant for troops fighting in the Battle of Okinawa.
The SS Hobbs Victory was at first anchored with other ships off the islands of Tokashiki and Aka, which were near Okinawa, but when the ships were attacked by Japanese fighter planes, the SS Hobbs steamed away from the group. It was at that time, 6:50 p.m., that one of the Japanese planes crashed into the port side of the SS Hobbs.
There were explosions and fire. The call to abandon ship was given, and lifeboats were lowered, some men having already jumped into the water.
A U.S. Navy fireboat fought the flames, but by morning there was another large explosion of ammunition, and the ship went down.
Twelve crewmen died in the attack upon the SS Hobbs.
Both of the Pribble boys survived the war, one of them, Foy, having been confined in and then liberated from a Japanese prison camp.
The Pribble family and their descendants, of course, were celebrated locally in Hobbs and in Lea for the service of Foy and Iris and for the family involvement in the launching of the SS Hobbs.
On Sunday, March 17, 2019, a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter of L. B. and Cora Evelyn (Russell) Pribble will be participating in the 2019 Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon at White Sands. Debbie (Pribble) Lawson and Liddy Lawson will be wearing t-shirts that have the names of all the Lea County men who were in the Bataan Death March, including Debbie’s father.
Debbie and Liddy will be coming through Hobbs on March 14 on their way to White Sands. Debbie has participated in two other Bataan marches, and this will be Liddy’s second event.
They will visit a few sights in Hobbs, and then stop by the Lea County Museum Veteran’s exhibit in Lovington where can be seen a replica of the SS Hobbs Victory Ship and an over-sized album of the construction and launching of the ship. The album belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Pribble, and Debbie donated it to the Lea County Museum a few years ago.
Mr. and Mrs. Pribble owned a flower shop in Hobbs. It was located on the northwest corner of Turner and Cain. The Pribble Brothers also had a farm on the east side of Dal Paso Street, between Cain and Sanger Streets.
Many in the Pribble family were present at the launching of the SS Hobbs on Jan. 9, 1945. It was built in just 87 days at Permanente Metals Corporation in Richmond, Calif. It was operated by Sudden and Christenson for the U.S. Maritime Commission.
Two other Victory Ships were sunk near Okinawa at the same time the SS Hobbs was. They were the Logan Victory, and the Canada Victory.
The Logan in that ship name was for Logan, Utah, not Logan, N.M.
On Sunday, March 24, the Hobbs News Sun has planned to publish a full page of photographs of the building and launching of the SS Hobbs. Primarily these are images in the Pribble album that was presented to the family, the album now on display in the Veterans Exhibit at the Lea County Museum.
The Veterans Exhibit is located in the 1931 Lister Building on Central Street across and on the south side of the Lea County Courthouse.
Jim Harris is the director of the Lea County Museum in Lovington.